UK pay gap shows scale of male senior dominance

Article by Adam Duckett

Findings reinforce the serious issue of lack of diversity in engineering

KEY employers of chemical engineers in the UK have published their gender pay gap information but have cautioned that the results, which at first glance look more favourable for men, are chiefly due to a lack of women in senior roles.

New regulations have come into force in the UK requiring companies with more than 250 employees to publish information on their gender pay gap. Looking at the median difference in pay reported by more than 10,000 companies, on average women’s hourly rate is 9.7% lower than for men.

Oil companies including BP and Shell have reported that their median salary gaps for UK employees are significantly behind the national average, at 20.8% and 22.2% lower for women.

More men in senior positions

BP explains in its report on gender pay that “similar to many other organisations, we do have a gender pay gap that varies across these UK businesses, ranging from -0.1% in BP Chemicals to +30.5% in BP Exploration. Our gender pay gap exists mainly because we have differing proportions of men and women at different levels in our workforce and in specific roles that attract higher pay, bonuses or allowances.”

Shell writes: “There are two main reasons for the gender pay gap in our UK companies: fewer women in senior leadership positions, and fewer women working offshore or in other roles such as trading that attract higher levels of pay. Our gender pay gap also reflects wider issues. Globally, women represent around one fifth of employees in the oil and gas sector. In the UK, only 25% of graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are women, and in engineering and technology this figure is just 14%.”

This trend of men dominating senior positions was reported across key employers of chemical engineers, including at AstraZeneca, University of Sheffield, and Wood Group. And there is a recognition among employers of chemical engineers that more must be done to bring more women into senior positions. For example, BP, Jacobs and UCL all report schemes to support more women applying for senior roles.

Meanwhile, Unilever has reported the median salary for women is 2.2% higher for its UK employees. Just 14% of companies have reported a gap in favour of women.

Unilever says this is because while 70% of those working in manufacturing roles are men within its smaller female population, proportionally more women are in higher paid managerial roles.

Equal pay for equal work

The message repeated by employers is that despite these differences in median figures they are paying equal salaries to those who work the same role regardless of gender.

Jacobs said: “Paying our employees fairly and equitably relative to their role, skills, experience and performance is central to our global reward philosophy.”

AstraZeneca reports: “We are committed to ensuring equal pay for equal work, regardless of an employee’s gender, and ensuring we have pay parity.”

ExxonMobil Chemical said: “Each employee is compensated independent of gender. This ensures alignment of compensation among employees with similar performance and experience, who are in jobs of similar scope and complexity.”

It says that this contributes to a median pay gap of 0.8% when taking into account pay allowances and bonus pay.

Pay check

Median pay gaps reported by selected key employers of chemical engineers in the UK

Unilever - women's hourly rate 2.2% higher than men's

GSK - women's hourly rate 0.34% lower than men's

Wood Group - women's hourly rate 1.6% lower than men's

UCL - women's hourly rate 8.9% lower than men's

Average - women's hourly rate 9.7% lower than men's

University of Sheffield - women's hourly rate 11.1% lower than men's

Sellafield - women's hourly rate 11.7% lower than men's

University of Manchester - women's hourly rate 13.1% lower than men's

AstraZeneca - women's hourly rate 13.2% lower than men's

Ineos Chemicals Grangemouth - women's hourly rate 14.4% lower than men's

ExxonMobil Chemical - women's hourly rate 17.1% lower than men's

BP - women's hourly rate 20.8% lower than men's

Shell - women's hourly rate 22.2% lower than men's

Jacobs - women's hourly rate 23.7% lower than men's

AmecFosterWheeler - women's hourly rate 24% lower than men's

ABB - women's hourly rate 32.7% lower than men's​


A serious issue

Responding to the pay gap findings, Hayaatun Sillem, CEO of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said they provide further evidence of the serious issue of the under-representation of women in engineering.

“It also highlights the lack of women at senior levels and in occupations that pay higher salaries,” she said.

“While the profession is motivated to address under-representation and work is underway to increase the number of female engineers, there is still much more to be done. At just 9%, the UK has the lowest proportion of female professional engineers of any European country and the pace of change in the diversity of the UK engineering workforce has been disappointingly slow. UK engineering is facing serious skills shortages, and addressing diversity and inclusion will not only help bridge this gap, it will also help drive innovation and creativity and ensure that those who design and build the world around us are more reflective of wider society.”

The Royal Academy of Engineering is running a programme to increase diversity and inclusion in engineering. This has included the creation of a Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Group, of which IChemE is an active member. The group has begun work on an analysis of the gender pay gap data in engineering and will use the results to inform recommendations concerning recruitment, retention and career progression.

Looking at the wider trends, The Financial Times’ analysis of the figures finds that all sectors have a pay gap that favours men. The five sectors with the highest average median pay gap are construction (~25%); finance and insurance (~22%); education (~19%); information & communication (~18%), and mining & quarrying (~18%)

IChemE Salary Survey

IChemE surveys its members each year and publishes a Salary Survey detailing the results. A link to the latest report is available here:

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

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